Man, how time flies. It hardly seems possible, but it has been ten years since the Steelers cut former All Pro linebacker Greg Lloyd. Pittsburgh yields nothing to the rest of the NFL when it comes to linebacking tradition, and Greg Lloyd distinguished himself as a top member of that elite group.
The Steelers drafted in 1987 Greg Lloyd out of Ft. Valley State in the six round.
Expectations of 6th round picks from Ft. Valley State normally run low, but Lloyd so distinguished himself that ESPN honored him last spring by ranking him 37th on this list of “Top 50 All Time Draft Steals.” Lloyd would have ranked higher on the list, but so many of the things Lloyd brought the field were intangible.
If, as Mike Tomlin says, Hines Ward is a football player first and a wide receiver second, then Greg Lloyd was a warrior before he was an outside linebacker.
Greg Lloyd was about intensity, attitude, fury, and “Just Plain Nasty.”
What most people fail to realize is that Greg Lloyd played his entire careers with one ACL missing in one knee, and another ACL basically stapled together in his other knee. Lloyd overcame these liabilities because he had an undeniable on-the-field presence.
Lloyd was relentless. Lloyd was not blessed with anything near the athletic skills of Rod Woodson, but Greg Lloyd set the tone for the Steelers defense.
When Woodson went down in the first game of the 1995 season, Lloyd animated the concept of stepping it up. In his best season ever, Lloyd made 117 tackles, registered 10 sacks, intercepted three balls, and forced seven fumbles.
Greg Lloyd exploded at the snap and wrought havoc in the offensive backfield. Seldom was 95 outside of the camera view when a tackle was being made. Lloyd was the rare player who altered the course games with the sheer force of his will.
The Steelers were losing 9-3 at half time in the final game of the 1993 season to a mediocre Browns team. They needed to win for a shot at the playoffs. In the locker room Greg Lloyd read his team the riot act, smashing a chair, offering to go out and play offense if that unit continued to be unable to do its part.
Lloyd backed word with deed. Two weeks prior he’d torn his hamstring, but readied to play by doing more than the required rehabilitation. He dominated the Browns, leading the team in tackles, making one sack, forceing two fumbles, and saving a touchdown by running down a Brown ball carrier from what seemed like ten yards behind.
Unfortunately, in the first game of 1996 it was Lloyd’s turn to go down with a season-ending injury. He recovered and was back on the field for opening day 1997, but was slow to regain his dominating presence. Lloyd opened the second half of the season by registering a sack in games 9, 10, and 11. He opened week 12 against the Eagle like a house of fire, knocking Bobby Hoying down as he threw the ball away on an early pass. After that play I remember proclaiming to the members of the PSFCOB at the Purple Goose Saloon, “Greg Lloyd is Back!”
Alas, that would be Lloyd’s last play for the Steelers. He seriously injured his ankle on that play, and a brush with Veteran’s Stadium artificial turf resulted in a staph infection that caused him to lose more than 20 pounds.
Hobbled by injury, Lloyd nonetheless reported to mini-camp and drilled with the team. Bill Cowher praised his competitive drive, but the team was forced to cut him shortly before training camp.
That was ten years ago this week. While Joey Porter, James Farrior, Jason Gildon, and most recently James Harrison have certainly carried on the Steelers linebacker legacy, no one has ever matched Greg Lloyd's intensity, explosiveness, or on-the-field presence since then.